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DOHA

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Doha's rapid development, into a commercial and entertainment hub is undoubtedly changing its old reputation as one of the world's less interesting capital cities.

 

Enormous malls, purpose-built tourist attractions, comprehensive residential developments and the mass expansion of the capital's residential and commercial property sectors, funded mostly by oil and gas money, means Doha looks, and smells, like a gargantuan construction site. However, once this is complete, it may very well because the biggest tourist and business attraction in the region.

Due to the nation's ostentatious wealth, Doha is one of the only capitals in the world to have remained relatively unscarred by the world economic crisis. Today, analysts predict Doha may even surpass Dubai as the region's commercial and financial hub.



In 1825, the city of Doha was founded under the names Al-Bida. The name "Doha" came from the Arabic ad-dawha, "the big tree."  The reference is to a prominent tree that stood at the site where the original fishing village arose, on the eastern coast of the Qatar peninsula. The name very likely also has some connection to the Arabic word for bay or gulf, dohat, referring to the bay area surrounding the corniche. 

In 1882, Al Rayyan built the Al Wajibah fortress, in southwestern Doha. The following year, Sheikh Qassim led a Qatari army to victory against the Ottomas. The city was made capital of the British protectorate of Qatar in 1916 and remained so when the nation gained Independence in 1971.

In December 2010 it was announced that Qatar will be hosting the FIFA World Cup 2022. Qatar competed against the likes of England was eventually successful in winning the bid to host the 2022 Soccer World Cup. This will be the first world cup hosted by an Arab nation.

Top teams from across the the globe will compete for the coveted Jules Rimet Trophy, including Brazil, Germany, Italy and Spain, and with them they will bring millions of faithful football followers. As a result of Qatar's harsh summers and the relatively small population of the country, the bid contained several unique elements that were unprecedented in World Cup History. The winning bid proposed that all stadiums constructed to host the World Cup would be built as air conditioned indoor venues, in order to ensure that the event could be held in summer. Many of these will be built on reclaimed 'island' in the Arabian Gulf.

From the visitor's point of view, the city centre is not in the centre of Doha at all - nor is it really a centre for that matter. To encapsulate the essence of Doha, simply thread your way through the palm trees that adorn the stunning corniche. The eight kilometre trip around the bay affords some spectacular views of this city as it rises from the desert sands, plus it offers plenty of rest-stops and photo opportunities along the way.

Begin at Ras Abu Abboud Street flyover, where a small park with ornamental wind towers introduces the 'heritage' zone of the corniche. The first roundabout here is also the turn off for the National Museum. Next is the 'sea' section of the corniche, passing Doha's busy port marked by the monumental anchors on the shore.

The Museum of Islamin Art rises like a sentinel out of the sea from its own purpose-built island. Designed by renowned architect I.M. Pei, it's shaped like a postmodern fortress with minimal windows and a 'virtual' moat. With an avenue of palm trees extending along the approach road from the corniche, it makes a bold statement about a capital that has matured into one of the most culturally engaged cities in the region, while on the left a ministry building shaped like a ship's bridge continues the nautical theme.

The Dhow Harbour is oppossite, the entrance of which is marked by the famous monument for pearl fishers, a popular spot for photos. The discovery of oil in the region in the early 1930s ended pearl harvesting as an industry and today pearl diving is practiced only as a hobby.

Doha may be small in size, but it's sizable in substance. From a cultural perspective it offers one of the best insights in the Gulf region, not to mention a  host of high-end hotels and impressive shopping experience incorporating both traditional souqs and modern-day, mammoth-sized shopping malls.

 

 

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